Introducing ACF’s Summer 2015 Intern & Why Do I Agvocate?

AgChat Foundation would like to officially welcome Melissa Woolpert as our summer 2015 intern. Melissa is an Melissa Woolpert ACF Summer Intern - AgChat.orgalumnae of the inaugural 2015 Collegiate Congress and a graduate student at the University of Vermont, pursuing her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

Her journey to agriculture advocacy has been unique and a strong indication that all people, regardless of their background, can successfully advocate for agriculture. The story is the second in our “Why Do I Agvocate?” series.

Dreaming of becoming a veterinarian, Melissa spent her Monterey County, California childhood riding horses. Her dream led to the University of Vermont to study Animal Science. As a part of coursework, she worked milking and caring for dairy cattle. She was immediately hooked and at the duration of her class, she began milking at a local dairy and has never turned back. Her love of farming developed into a desire to learn more about food and she returned to obtain her Masters of Science degree in Food Systems.

While she did not grow up around farming or ranching, her love and experience working in the dairy industry has created a drive to foster positive discussion, thought and support for our food system. Her journey from a sunny, Californian eater to an advocating farmer, is shared in more depth on her blog CountrybyChance.com. You can also catch up with her on the CountryByChance Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.  We would love for you to take a look and see how she encourages other eaters to jump into advocating for food.

You will also find a great opportunity to connect with Melissa on the AgChat Foundation Facebook page, #AgChat Facebook group, the FoodChat Facebook page and on Twitter. Please give her a warm, AgChat shout out to welcome her!

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Farm and Ranch Blogger Database

ag blogger database image

You asked, we listened! We have received many requests for a resource guide which organizes agriculture advocates’ blogs and social media pages by production type, methods or area of food production. There are numerous aspects of agriculture and this will provide a resource when you’ve received a question pertaining to an area which you unfamiliar. For example, a turkey farmer has received a question about the side dressing process. The turkey farmer can access this document and find a row crop farmer who can assist in answering the question.

Just click on the image to link to the Farm and Ranch Blogger Database, or click here! Are you a Twitter lover? Then click here for a list of the blogger’s Twitter handles (in a Twitter list, of course!).

Do you write an ag related blog that isn’t included in the list? Please leave your blog URL and your twitter handle, Instagram handle, and/or Facebook page link in the comments below and we will check it out!

 

New Series: Why do I agvocate? – Farm Barbie

We are pleased to bring agriculture advocates a new series called “Why Do I Agvocate?” Often times we can become caught up in the numbers, likes, views, rates and the excitement of social media. We set expectations for ourselves, our blogs, Facebook farm or fan pages and at times become driven by metrics. When the metric benchmarks aren’t achieved we become frustrated or discouraged. 

Some may find success in their stats or metrics expectation. However before many “agvocates” realize it their original reason of “Why Do I Agvocate?” is gone. Social media then potentially becomes a numbers game. Social media should never be about the numbers but the connections and the impacts you make, big or small.

We can forget why we began advocating for agriculture, telling our stories or agvocating, whichever descriptor you prefer. Others may hold certain expectations of what you should be accomplishing in your advocacy journey. In either case, you cannot let that detract you from your original goal of Agvoacy. The hardcore truth is that there’s a high likelihood that at some point we have all fallen to the numbers and expectations. In an effort to bring the ‘why’ back to advocating, we want to share each other’s ‘whys.’ This week we are beginning with Farm Barbie who has a fantastic story behind her ‘why.’

The Why Behind Farm Barbie written by Barbara Siemen

I didn’t grow up in a small town, or even on a farm. My family lived on a beach, with a lake as our front yard. I attended Catholic school. Everything I wanted or needed was within a 20-minute drive. I consider myself a true city-girl at heart, but now I’m living the life of a country-girl complete with cows in my backyard, more tractor traffic down our road than  cars, and straw, random bolts, and other lovely surprises in my washing machine. How did that happen? Love.

I went to Michigan State University as a Criminal Justice major. After spending my high school years involved in my local police department’s Explorer’s Program, I was bound to be an officer. I had respect and admiration for the law and those who uphold it on the streets. I was determined to remove criminals from society. I loved the feel of a Glock in my hand, the weight of Kevlar on my chest, the look of a fresh-pressed uniform, and the scent of the locker room. We had regular monthly meetings and our own uniforms. I went on ride-a-longs every weekend. I knew the LEIN system, proper search procedure, and could take down and cuff a 250-pound man in seconds. I loved it.

One day, Freshman year in South Hubbard Hall at MSU, I was in the cafeteria eating with my friends, decked out in camouflage pants and a white t-shirt, when I spotted him. Fresh from the weight room wearing a white tank top, yellow mesh shorts, and black lifting gloves, he sauntered into the cafeteria like a boss. I pointed him out to my friends. I was in love.

Dorm dates turned into weekend trips “back home” where I spent time alongside him in a tractor, the milking parlor, or at his family’s frequent gatherings. I was in love with him, but I was falling in love with this occupation and his community. I knew I would be with this man for the rest of my life, but being a cop in a small town would be a super tough job. I decided my future family was more important than my own career aspirations, so I changed my major to English, since language was the only other strength I had and loved as much.

After graduation, we married and moved “back home” to where generations of Siemens’ had lived. We live in the same house he grew up in, on the same parcel of land that his family has owned for over 100 years. We continue the family farming tradition with our three children, in the hopes that they will someday carry on the legacy. Though I don’t have a job outside on the farm, I take care of the office stuff and I blog about agriculture as a way to reach consumers. The reason I do it is really all about love.

Darrin works hard, long hours, and puts all our investments in Mother Nature’s hands, hoping to reap a reward in the future. It takes an enormous amount of faith and love to do this every year. After being married for almost 14 years and watching him toil or triumph over and over, his pure love for agriculture has been transported to me. His love is my love, it’s our family’s love, it’s our future love.

On my blog, and across social media, I share various facets of our life. I show readers our daily happenings, so they can see that we are just like them. I share facts about agriculture, so they can understand that we use science and technology in addition to hard work and dedication to provide quality food to them. I offer recipes, so other moms like me can have options for feeding their family, too. I do all of this out of love, and because it also gives me a creative outlet, a purpose in life apart from my husband and kiddos, and a connection to others I wouldn’t otherwise know in life.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that everyone has struggles and is passionate about something different, which is what makes us all so interesting and unique. A woman that lost her mother to breast cancer might be a prominent voice for breast cancer awareness and research. Someone that has suffered at the abusiveFarm barbie and family hands of a loved one might be a volunteer at a domestic violence shelter. Farmers areno different than anyone else. We are a voice for that thing that we love so much, that thing that has touched our lives and changed us forever. We yearn for the opportunity to reach one more person, to show them our farm, tell them about our animals, to dispel any myths. We get offended when someone questions our intentions or integrity, because we are deeply hurt by the accusation.

I hope through the mirror of their computer screen, readers can see themselves in us; we are human and we make mistakes too. Every day we get up and try our best. We strive and struggle. We conquer and celebrate.
At the end of the day, that thing that makes it all worth it, is love. Farm Barbie is human, and she loves.

 

 

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FarmBarbie

Barbara Ann, also known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. Now, she’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She is also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Read more about Farm Barbie on her blog www.farmbarbie.com, tweet with her @BarbaraSiemen, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

 

AgChat Foundation Partners with ThirstyLand Film maker Conrad Weaver

Emmitsburg, Maryland – Will there be enough water to survive? “Thirsty Land” is an exciting new documentary that tells the story of drought, its impact on agriculture, communities and the global food supply.

Filmmaker, Conrad Weaver is already well known for his award-winning documentary “The Great American Wheat Harvest.” Working with farmers and harvesters has led him to turn the focus of his company, Conjostudios LLC, exclusively to agriculture, and now he’s focusing on the drought that’s strangling our landscape, and threatening our food supply.

“The story of drought needs to be told! Our global food supply and our very survival of humans depend on clean, abundant fresh water.  I want to make the audience think about it every time they take a drink of water, enjoy a shower or water their lawn.”

The AgChat Foundation is collaborating with Weaver as the in-kind “Fiscal Sponsor” and fundraising partner of “Thirsty Land” film.  The Foundation will provide fundraising support as a 501c3 non-profit organization, enabling Weaver to receive grants, and other tax-deductible donations for the film project.

“I’m thrilled to be able to work with AgChat Foundation,” says Weaver, “Their mission for connecting consumers to their food is completely in line with the mission of our film. The films we produce at ConjoStudios are all about helping consumers understand how agriculture works, so our collaboration is a win-win for both of us!”

Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director of AgChat Foundation says, “Participation with ConjosStudios, LLC, and the Thirsty Land film is an incredible opportunity to connect consumers to the farmers and ranchers who are producing our food, fuel and fibers. The AgChat Foundation’s overall goals are two-fold: to empower those in agriculture with the tools they need to develop meaningful conversations with consumers and to provide conduit for our industry to connect with those who are not involved with farming or ranching. Conrad has a unique eye for creatively grabbing viewers’ attention while also framing situations, such as the drought, in a way which inspires everyone to become part of the solution. We are honored to assist Conrad in bringing the dire conditions of drought to the forefront of everyone’s mind by supporting the conduit provided by Thirsty Land.”

Weaver is launching a “Crowdfunding” campaign for “Thirsty Land” on June 1 through IndieGoGo.com with a goal of raising $25,000 to help with the production of the film. 
Visit https://conjostudios.leadpages.net/thirstyland-trailer/  to view the film trailer, and sign up for more information.

For interview requests and more information on the making of the film, contact Conrad Weaver at 301-606-7794 or email conrad@conjostudios.com today.

Celebrating Five Years of Pioneering Grassroots Agvocacy in Nashville

As a pioneer in grassroots agvocacy, the AgChat Foundation is proud to announce the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference which will be held at the Hotel Preston in Nashville, TN. In an effort to accommodate state and country fairs; back-to-school and other agriculturally related events, the conference is scheduled for November 9-10, rather than August.

We all know pioneers in our industry, but what happens when you are the pioneer? You celebrate. And, that is 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference - register at http://nashville.agchat.rocksexactly what the AgChat Foundation community will be doing this year at the 2015 Cultivate & Connect conference, themed Celebrating Five Years of Pioneering Grassroots Agvocacy.

“In 2010, the AgChat Foundation was founded in an effort to connect farmers and ranchers while empowering them to connect communities and tell the stories behind their farms and ranches. The grassroots movement was the first of its kind which has led to training over 700 farmers, ranchers, agribusiness professionals, educators and enthusiasts,” stated Jenny Schweigert, Executive Director, AgChat Foundation. She adds, “It is amazing to see so many people successfully sharing the story behind our food and making meaningful connections with consumers. This year’s event is as much about delivering excellent training as it is about celebrating the accomplishments made by the agriculture advocacy community over the past five years.”

This year’s conference plans to accommodate over 175 food and farm devotees and do it with the flair only Music City can offer.

Who should attend?

The conference and celebration is open all farmers, ranchers, growers, agribusiness people and agriculture educators from all walks of agriculture.

What can I expect?

Sessions for beginners and advanced agvocates will include:

  • tactical strategies for providing information that the general public is seeking about food and farming,
  • writing workshops,
  • food photography,
  • Search Engine Optimization,
  • understanding analytics,
  • establishing working relationships with the media,
  • case studies,
  • information management strategies,
  • an overview of emerging social platforms,
  • and planning an event on your farm or ranch.

But wait, there’s more!

Do you have ideas for a session and are you willing to present? The AgChat Foundation is asking for session ideas with the theme: “What, How, or Why Are You Doing Things Differently with Social Media Platforms?” for the 2015 National AgChat Conference. To submit a session proposal, go to http://bit.ly/1JBjz97 . The deadline for entry is 11:59 PM Central Time June 21. One member from each winning proposal team will receive a complimentary registration to the conference. Travel and hotel are the responsibility of the presenter. The selected sessions will be announced July 1. For additional information pertaining to submitting a session proposal, contact John Blue at jlblue@trufflemedia.com.

How do I register?

Register by clicking here which will take you to the registration site http://nashville.agchat.rocks

I’ve felt so alone in agvocacy

The AgChat Foundation has now held conferences in Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City, Charlotte, NC, Portland, OR, Austin and most recently Spokane, WA. The greatness of these events can be attributed to fabulous keynote speakers such as Bruce Vincent, sessions from basic Twitter to relationship building to conflict management, tours of grocers such as Whole Foods and wheat mills and finally, the ever popular, interactive consumer panels. Above all, it is the networking and attendees which put our conferences in the excellence category. I’d like to share a reflection following the recent 2015 Pacific Northwest Agvocacy conference.

There is no argument about the disconnect between consumers and their food. It clearly exists for AgChat Foundation's 2015  Pacific Northwest Agvocacy Conferenceeveryone. One observation which became evident is that the intensity of the disconnect varies greatly from region to region in the U.S. The pacific northwest is a prime example. There are stringent battle lines which have been drawn, by consumers several generations removed from the farm as well as farmers and ranchers who are fighting for their legacies. Couple those lines with the challenges faced by governmental land management and sharing your story of farming or ranching might look like an up-hill ride.

The issues which exist in the pacific northwest are vast and agriculture is extremely diverse. Bringing growers together allowed for stressors to be shared rather than held up by one person. As we all networked and chatted during the PNW event, there was a similar message that was heard multiple times.

“I’m so glad I connected with you. I’ve felt so alone.”

In that short two-day event, the relationships which were formed are providing inspiration and collaborations. Attendees now have a reachable mentoring group who can relate to the challenges they face in telling their stories of farming and ranching. Witnessing these conversations was a reminder of why the AgChat Foundation exists. It serves as a connecting point for agvocates to share and support one another. To ask for or provide advice. It is also a reminder that even if you haven’t attended an event yet, there are other opportunities to connect with other agvocates. You are not alone. I challenge you to reach out to at least one of these channels this week and share with friends and family who are also agvocating:

We sincerely hope that the event provided the desired conduit to connect all of the attendees who are advocating for agriculture in the pacific northwest and beyond. You are the AgChat Foundation and the resources and network are at your finger tips.

NEW #AgBlog post from Success is Reason Enough | #AgChatPNW

Posted by Blogging for Agriculture on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

~Jenny

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Jenny serves as the AgChat Foundation Executive Director while helping manage her family’s Jenny Schweigert - AgChat.org photo courtesy of Keiser Photography https://www.facebook.com/KeiserPhotographysmall hobby farm and jumping in when possible on her in-laws farm in central Illinois. In addition to AgChat.org, she can be found blogging at TheMagicFarmHouse where she shares about life on their farm while connecting with boy moms, food allergy parents, hunters and more. She loves deer hunting and avoids housekeeping when possible. You can connect with her on Facebook or tweet her on Twitter.

Celebrating National Agriculture Week 2015

National Agriculture Week is a tribute to the hard working folks who bring food, fuel and fiber to our everyday lives. All three elements are essential to the survival of human kind. That is something to celebrate! Wondering how you can celebrate? Here are just a few events or efforts you can find:

  • #FoodChat – moderated by Michele Payn-Knoper, ACF will be hosting our monthly #FoodChat conversation on Twitter celebrating National Agriculture Week, National Nutrition Month and St. Patrick’s day. Join the conversation Tues., March 17th, 8-10pmET.
  • Pay it forward! Become an individual sponsor of the AgChat Foundation! Contributions provided will assist in spreading the word about agriculture advocacy, assist in reducing conference registration fees during 2015 and support farmers and ranchers with resources such as how-to blog posts.
  • #AgProud – Join AgChat Foundation alum, Ryan Goodman as he celebrates National Agriculture Day by encourage you to share why you are Agriculture Proud! Use the hash tag #AgProud and #AgDay2015 on social media networks and connect to those who are using your products.
  • Check out the events around the U.S. which will be celebrating National Agriculture Day on Wed., March 18th

Celebrate National Ag Week! AgChat.org

#RelentlessAsYou Contest!

You work hard, right? Our newest sponsor, Valent. At Valent, they know what you go through on a daily basis and why you can be described as #Relentless. Some farm until 2am, some all night, through the rain and on a rare occasion, snow, with very little reward. As you begin prep for planting in 2015, be sure to consider why you or a neighbor are relents! Then all you need to do is submit it to win $1,000, for your community!!

Valent wants you to share your story with the world. Be sure to held on over to the Relentless As You website, where you may find all the details

March 10th, 2015 – AgChat on Antibiotics

March 10th, 2015 – AgChat on AntibioticsHow Does Ag Work With Antibiotics? There is concern expressed in the press and social media about the issues of super bugs that are evolving because of the use of antibiotics. How is the use of antibiotics in agriculture impacting the genetic changes of bacteria? What are the conversations farms have with consumers about their use of antibiotics on farms? This #AgChat looks into the conversations occurring.
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March 3rd, 2015 – AgChat on Water

March 3rd, 2015 – AgChat on WaterWater Is Life Water is certainly a necessity. And, the variety of ways water is used is vast (example: water in beer making). Water quality and availability is a concern by many, especially when thinking into the future 15 or 20 years out. Within the USA, water use, availability, and quality cause contention amongst many stakeholders and stresses the systems in place for everyone. What does the future of water hold? This #AgChat on Water highlights some of the issues and insights into water in agriculture.

Participating in this chat were Aubrey Bettencourt (@AubBettencourt) with the California Water Alliance (@CAWaterAlliance), and Caroline McKinney with Trimble Agriculture (@Trimble_Ag). They offered insights on their view of water and some of the solutions being taken by people and organizations.

This chat was sponsored by The National Institute for Animal Agriculture (@NIAA_comm) and their Annual Conference March 23-26 in Indianapolis, on the topic of water. Learn more about the #AgWater2015 conference [link] and register to attend [link].

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